One day is never enough time to explore any city properly, but if one day is all you have, Kyoto is definitely worth the visit.
Located on the island of Honshu, Kyoto is a two-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo and is easy to navigate by both foot and bus. Kyoto translates to "capital city" in Chinese and is referred to as Japan's "Thousand Year Capital" because it served the designation until 1869.
Kyoto boasts more than 1,600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines and countless palaces and gardens. With only 24 hours to explore the ancient city, it's important to build your itinerary to make every minute count.
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at the Kyoto Inn Gion.
After a comfortable night's sleep at this centrally-located hotel, grab a bite to eat and head out the door. Gion is Kyoto's most famous Geisha district and also home to numerous restaurants, shops and tea houses. Stroll the narrow alleys to try to catch a glimpse of a Geisha or Maiko, Geisha-in-training, before making your way to the nearest bus station to purchase a 500 yen day pass.
9:30 a.m. Kinkaku-ji, Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Not many establishments in Japan are open early but this top attraction begins welcoming tourists at 9 a.m. Located a bit out of the way in the northwest, the Golden Pavilion with its numerous gardens and reflecting ponds is perfect for a morning stroll. Known officially as Rokuon-ji, the Zen Buddhist temple was originally built for powerful statesmen. It's extensive gold-leaf coating is believed to dispel negative feelings towards death.
12:00 p.m. Lunch at Ramen Sen no Kaze.
Head back to the center of the city to enjoy lunch at the number one ramen restaurant in the world according to TripAdvisor. The small restaurant has received well-deserved publicity in recent years so be prepared to take a number and wait for your turn for a seat at the bar. If you have more than a few minutes to spare, pop into the Bengal Cat and Owl Forest
located nearby in the Nishiki Market.
1:30 p.m. Fushimi Inari-taisha. After a satisfying lunch, hop back on the bus and make your way to this popular shrine situated at the base of a mountain. Dedicated to Inari the God of Rice, the worshipping spot is a favorite of businessmen, merchants and manufacturers. The highlight of this shrine is the thousands of torii, or orange-colored entrance gates, that line the path up the mountain.
4:00 p.m. Kiyomizu-dera. One of the signature UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kyoto, this Buddhist temple in the east is not to be missed. Founded in 778 and with many of its buildings constructed in the 1600s, it is believed that not a single nail was used in the construction of this complex. Before trekking uphill to walk the grounds and indulge in a paper fortune, stop by one of the many shops selling traditional snacks and souvenirs.
6:00 p.m. Dinner at Kikyo Sushi.
Following a full day discovering the beauty of Kyoto enjoy a delicious meal served at this family-run restaurant. Fresh fish is their specialty with traditional sushi offerings as well as Kyoto-style.
With its traditional beauty and deep-rooted history, Kyoto is the cultural epicenter of Japan. A day well-spent will invite you into the enchanting city but will most certainly leave you yearning to discover more.